Pierce County judge upholds city of Fife’s ban on marijuana businesses

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Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper ruled the city of Fife can ban state-legalized marijuana businesses. (Photo: KCPQ-TV)

TACOMA — A Pierce County judge ruled Friday that Fife can prohibit pot businesses within its city limits, but his decision avoided the issue of whether federal law trumps the state’s legalization of marijuana.

In Pierce County Superior Court, Tedd Wetherbee watched as his legal team argued that he has a right to open a marijuana store in Fife.

The Fife City Council recently adopted an ordinance banning all marijuana businesses in the city, and Wetherbee filed suit.

“You can’t say, if I’m the state, ‘I’m allowing you to do retail marijuana operations’ and then for you (Fife) to say, ‘But you can’t do it here,'” Wetherbee’s attorney argued.

But Judge Ronald Culpepper ruled in favor of the city.

"I conclude Fife's ordinance is not pre-empted by I-502 or other state law," he said.

But what the judge didn't rule on was the question of whether marijuana can be legal in Washington state if federal law says it is illegal. That was part of Fife's argument for keeping pot stores out of the city.

"Anytime there is an argument addressing the legalization of marijuana that could reach the federal pre-emption issue, then that has the ability to eviscerate Initiative 502," said state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

The judge called his ruling fairly narrow.

It was applauded by the city of Fife's attorney.

"The initiative, as the judge just ruled, allows local zoning authority to be exercised," said Fife City Attorney Loren Combs.

But Wetherbee said he'll continue to challenge the ruling.

"We are not going to take it as a total setback," he said. "Clearly, the federal government argument no longer has any weight with all the municipalities in the state that have been trying to block (marijuana businesses) on that point," he said.






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